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Marlon Riggs Interview : Signifying Meets the Media

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Marlon Riggs Interview : Signifying Meets the Media


Published June 10, 1992


Description: An Interview with Marlon Riggs, screened or recorded on June 10, 1992, for the Race and Gender Drama (class?) at San Francisco Art Institute. The interview is conducted by a women named Akiba for a public access program, possibly fictional, called "Signifying Meets the Media."

Synopsis: Although, the tone is informal and humorous, the subjects under discussion are serious, covering topics central to Riggs’ oeuvre and exploring how they manifest in current events of the period.

The interview covers the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict in which, Riggs states, African Americans were portrayed as “hoodlums, and looters, and thugs”. Riggs discusses how although the post-verdict destruction was caused by multi-racial groups, media focused the blame on negatively stereotyped African Americans, “because if you simply label people as criminals and thugs then it’s very clear what the problems are and what the solutions therefore are and doesn’t require…you to deal with any of the underlying social disorder that creates that kind of volcanic disruption.”

The way in which Black sexuality is represented by the media, is discussed by Riggs and Akiba through looking at examples of several high-profile African Americans of the era: Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, Arthur Ashe, and Magic Johnson. Riggs examines how Clarence Thomas redefined his masculinity; emphasizing race to play the “victimized Black man”, when that image served him against the accusations of Anita Hill. Regarding Anita Hill, he mentions the media’s characteristic “silence, avoidance or denial” and discusses how many, including many “within Black America, avoided confronting issues of sexism and sexual oppression” by making the issue into one of race, in which Hill should have stood by Thomas as a Black man, rather than one of sexism in which she had been victimized by his actions. An analysis of the media sympathy for Arthur Ashe and Magic Johnson, both of whom had recently announced that they had contracted AIDS, leads to an examination of the way in which “innocent heterosexual victims” receive sympathy while stigmatized groups which include those “who are gay, or I.V. drug users, or women who are facing impoverishment“ are not given sympathy or support.

Examining how the media depicts African Americans and presents matters concerning race is at the core of much of Riggs’ work. His desire for a media discourse in which representations of African Americans in the media are “read” using critical analysis, and questioned rather than passively accepted, pervades this interview as it does the larger body of his work.
-- review by Jennine Scarboro

Source: 1 Tape of 1: 3/4 inch videotape

Collection: Capp Street Project Archive

Rights: Copyright status unknown. This work may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, its reproduction may be restricted by terms of gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. This work is accessible for purposes of education and research. Transmission or reproduction of works protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. California College of the Arts attempted to find rights owners without success but is eager to hear from them so that we may obtain permission, if needed. Upon request to: jwoo@cca.edu, digitized works can be removed from public view if there are rights issues that need to be resolved.


Digitized by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP).


Run time 00:12:34
Audio/Visual Sound, Color
Language English
Contact Information California College of the Arts Meyer Library, 5212 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94618 Telephone: (510) 594-3658

Credits

Interviewee: Marlon T. Riggs

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